Perhaps one of the most underestimated qualities necessary to being hired for virtually ANY job is likeability. No one hires a candidate that they don’t like. What’s more, a reasonably qualified candidate stands a far better chance of being hired than a superbly qualified one, if the difference in likeability is significant. After all, would you want to work day in and day out with a person who rubs you the wrong way, no matter how well qualified?
If you think that likeability is a fixed personal quality (some people have it, and some just don’t), you’d be wrong. Certainly we all are born with basic personality types, and if you’re a pessimistic introvert you’re less likely to connect with the average employer than if you’re an optimistic extrovert (though in some cases the opposite will be true). However, there are a number of factors within your control that can significantly raise your likeability. Some, like the way you dress, are very site and situationally specific. Others, though, are universally applicable. Here are eight (which will be of particular use in a job interview):
Body Mirroring: Pay attention to your posture, gestures and facial expressions. Try to reflect at least to some degree the body language of the person you’re speaking with without directly mimicking. If you’re being interviewed by someone who’s stiff and expressionless rein in a tendency to be highly mobile.
Voice Mirroring: If you’re being interviewed by someone whose speech comes off as a bit stiff and formal, don’t use slang. If she is very soft-spoken, avoid raising your voice too much. Speak with energy, and ALWAYS use correct grammar and pronunciation.
Dress: Needless to say, dress appropriately for the organization with which you’re interviewing. How you’re attired will make an immediate first impression, one that you of course want to be favorable. Dressing too formally may suggest a coldness or stiffness; too casually might imply a lack of seriousness or even sloppiness. None of those characteristics will endear you to a potential employer.
Attentiveness: You certainly want the person who’s interviewing you, or someone you’re simply chatting with, to feel that you’re listening carefully. That can be most clearly communicated with eye contact (use a lot of it without staring the other person down). Using phrases such as “Let me make sure that I understand you correctly” or “That’s really interesting” also signals attentiveness and engagement.
Watch Your hands: They play an important role in communication. A firm handshake is always appreciated. Placing your hand(s) on your face is generally interpreted negatively: it says you’re bored, disinterested, or judgmental. Fidgeting (excessive movement of the hands, legs, or body) is very off-putting.
Empathy: This quality is cued primarily by mirroring, but empathy is not merely a behavioral trick. It needs to be genuinely felt (see below). Practice building your ability to be empathetic by taking the time to think about the unlikeable actions of others, and trying to find logical reasons why they might be acting as they are. For example, someone who’s constantly boasting is probably deeply insecure; someone who’s quick to anger probably feels somewhat powerless.
Being Positive: Positivity isn’t agreeing with someone all the time. You should certainly feel comfortable expressing your own opinions (see Genuineness below). Avoid, however, gratuitous negative comments, even about such non-controversial topics as the weather. No one likes to hear a complainer, and virtually any negative comment that you make can be taken as a complaint.
Genuineness: There has to be a careful balance between implementing the suggestions above and remaining true to whom you fundamentally are. Very few people can pull off insincerity with success. But practicing the above suggestions will, over time, allow you to carry them out in a way that rings true, at least on some level.